Official Statement from Babalu

To My Family, Friends, Fans and Sponsors:

Since UFC 74, I have wanted to speak publicly about my fight with David Heath. I waited to do so, however, out of respect for the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Zuffa, Inc. and Dana White. After all, it is their efforts that have legitimized Mixed Martial Arts in the sports world and I realize that my conduct has unintentionally hindered those efforts. For that, among other things, I am deeply sorry. I have been fighting professionally since 1998. Prior to my fight with David Heath, my professional record was twenty-seven wins with seven losses. Fourteen of my victories came by way of submission. Not once was I ever accused of holding a choke or submission too long. If anything, there has always been and continues to be a great camaraderie between my opponents and I after the fight.

Being a professional mixed martial artist is more than a career to me. It is my livelihood and my way of life. Consequently, I am deeply sorry for any embarrassment that has been brought upon the sport, other mixed martial artists (especially David Heath), my Academy and most importantly, my family. As if the embarrassment were not enough, my actions during the fight with David and my comments afterwards, have already resulted in severe financial loss to my family because as you know, in addition to my win bonus still being withheld, yesterday I was released from my contract with the UFC.

There has been much talk about things that may have been said to me by David Heath at the weigh-in. What David said to me at the weigh-in didn’t matter then and doesn’t matter now. What matters are my comments after the fight. And, regardless of what you may read by so called MMA experts on the internet, I never said that I purposefully choked-out David Heath. In short, my post-fight comments, while inappropriate, were not intended to be comments about the choke. Rather, they were intended to be comments about the aggressive performance that I put in.

I did not intentionally choke out David Heath. The first that I realized that David had tapped was when people told me that he did after the fight. When I finally had the chance to view the tape, I see that he did. When David tapped, I did not feel it. I wish I did for I would have let it go. Instead, I continued to hold it. Not because I was upset or wanted him to lose consciousness. I held it because I didn’t know he tapped and I was intent on winning the fight. Holding on to a choke a little long is not an uncommon mistake made in training, and never in my career have I witnessed or heard of an injury resulting from it.When I had the choke, I was not looking the referee in the eyes as one commentator erroneously observed. Nor did I hear the referee issue any verbal command to release the hold. Instead, my head was down to strengthen the move and my eyes closed with focus. As a result, I did not feel the referee tap me the first time either. It was not until he put his hands on my right shoulder that I felt him trying to separate us. When I felt this, I immediately released the choke. On August 31, 2007, I attended a hearing at the Athletic Commission. After the hearing, I traveled to the UFC’s office to meet with Dana White. Contrary to recent reports in the media, this meeting was not to discuss my being released from the UFC. In fact, this meeting was arranged prior to my even being released from the contract. The purpose of the meeting was for me to personally apologize to Dana while at the same time thank him for all the opportunities that the UFC has given to my family and I. Unfortunately, I was unable to meet with Dana due to a calendaring error made by his office. Nevertheless, thanks Dana and my apologies.

I am a professional fighter. This is what I do for a living. I do not hold a day job and then train at night to fight. I know nothing else but how to fight. This is how I support my family. On behalf of my family and friends, I appreciate the support that you have given me over the years, not to mention in the recent week, and I am hopeful that I will have the opportunity to fight again in the State of Nevada.


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About the author

Richard M. Wilner